Decolonising the Curriculum

Decolonising the Curriculum

During academic year 20/21 DCAD is supporting the University in a project to Decolonise the Curriculum.

The call to decolonise universities across the global North has gained significant momentum in recent years. Notable examples include the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford movement, where students demanded that the Cecil Rhodes statue prominently and centrally on display at that university be removed for what it symbolized and the history it represented in a place of education.

The theme of questioning what message was being communicated by the voices that were included in curricula being taught, and those that are absent, was picked up by the National Union of Students in the Why is my curriculum white?1 film. This movement has been gradually spreading in the UK, and there is an ongoing movement within higher education institutions (HEIs) to review their curricula and use the decolonising lens to do so. Additionally, or in some cases as a starting point, this is being debated by the student body via student unions.

A simple definition of decolonisation of curricula is as follows:

“decolonizing the curriculum means creating spaces and resources for a dialogue among all members of the university on how to imagine and envision all cultures and knowledge systems in the curriculum, and with respect to what is being taught and how it frames the world.”

Decolonising Curriculum Manifesto, Keele University

The project is highly consultative and is run in partnership with DSU and operates through two main strands. The taught programs strand is focussed on a series of consultative and developmental workshops (some at institutional- and some at faculty-level) and focuses on decolonisation of the taught curriculum through the involvement of Faculty Teams and Departmental Representatives. The research strand is focussed on decolonising research practices . Both strands are discussed below.

Taught Programs Strand

The taught programs strand kicked off on 10th November 2020 with a workshop with over 90 staff from across the institution and a number of student representatives. The workshop comprised a keynote from Lucia Kula (School of African and Oriental Students, London) on Decolonising the Curriculum and a panel discussion with staff representatives from the four faculties and student representatives from the DSU and DPOCA. A recording of the workshop is available to Durham Staff and Students at this link.

The taught programs strand will continue with Faculty level workshops, followed by a meeting of all those involved. From this a toolkit for teaching and learning will be developed for use from the start of academic year 2021/22.


Research Strand

The research strand, led by the Durham Research Methods Centre, will consist of a cross-disciplinary workshop to exchange good practice and discuss the challenges involved in decolonising research practice. The remit covers the lifecycle of a research project, from formation of the research team, to study design, data collection, analysis, interpretation and publication practices. We hope the workshop will be of practical benefit to research-active staff and students, building a network of researchers as a source for exchange of good practice. By influencing academics’ research practice, this workshop will feedback into research-led teaching practice and the academic literature drawn upon by the curriculum.

An initial discussion with African Centre for Scholarship, Stellenbosch University, is already underway to run and participate in a workshop in this strand.